The rapid spread of Swine Flu across the internet and the spread of information online for containment procedures in relation to it.
It has been absolutely fascinating to watch the technological developments unfold as the world judges the probability of a Swine Flu pandemic. The current primary information repositories seem to be entirely based on information being released from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Swine Flu site located here, and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States located here. Google has released an interesting tool to plot the spread of the disease from their website which you can check out here which maps the latest information from a number of sites in a RSS feed. Interestingly, if you check out the Google News site you can also see the sheer number of stories being published around this disease, and more than 10,000 Tweets on Twitter are being posted every hour in relation to the latest news and information showing that real-time information surrounding the disease is quickly accessible.
The sheer number of searches being conducted online is clearly illustrated on the Google Trends search feature, which highlights a sharp rise in “swine flu, swine, flu, influenza” searches compared to the normal number of searches at the beginning of April.
What is most surprising, is the media’s massive exposure of the disease and the unprecedented global response to prevent the disease from entering nation States borders. To be frank, the sheer amount of coverage of the virus shows the power of new social media and most importantly — the gravity of the disease and perhaps the hype surrounding it. At the very least, the Internet is allowing people to stay so informed around the latest outbreaks that it is almost impossible to decipher all the relevant information. Perhaps more importantly, is the effect of the disease in our already fragile economy. Some news stories have stated that the economic impact of even a ‘mild’ dose of the disease would be around $330 Billion USD in lost output as the world shudders and people remains indoors. Of course, on the absolute end of the scale the damage would total around 142.2 million lives and cost more than $4.4 Trillion to the world’s economies — something that we could ill afford considering the current financial crisis.
Thermal imaging scanning to detect body heat in airports, surgical face masks, commercial airline pilots being required to report the health of passengers, doctors and nurses at airports, quarantining ill people in their homes and even an increase in the sale of gas masks are the responses taken thus far to prevent the spread of the disease. If Mexico is anything to go off, increases in food shortages and clean water could also be a problem. Of course, this is all very much an ‘alarmist’ view and is not balanced in perspective to the number of people who die each year from influenza through a standard winter. At the moment, very few people have been affected by Swine Flu as a proportion of the standard number of people affected by influenza each year. But as is standard in this day and age — the sensationalist attitude of the media prepares everyone for the worst and an ill informed populace over compensates as a result.
Of course, whenever there global fear surrounding the disease — someone always seems to come out on top financially. The makers of the two most effective anti-virals against the disease are Biota Holdings Ltd and Roche Holdings AG who each produce Relenza and Tamiflu respectively — both the most effective influenza drugs on the market, and both seem to have an solid impact on Swine Flu. Smartly — Google have always denied advertising on drugs as part of their Adwords program and all searches related to Swine Flu — are advertising free. But of course, if the media continues to hype the disease and not report the truth of the spread accurately — then more and more people will begin to become alarmed about the disease — leading to the natural probable cause of panic.
So in writing this article, and doing some basic research online — it seems the most prudent course of action to take at this stage is simply standard smart and healthy personal care. This would include, both from common sense and from the CDC FAQ and Swine Flu and You pages, the following:
- Cover your mouth when coughing
- Sneeze into a handkerchief or tissue
- Keep your hands clean at all times — my recommendation are the hand cleaners that don’t require water.
- Avoid touching public surfaces and then touching mucous membranes (nose, eyes, ears, mouth etc)
- Stay away from sick people
- If you’re feeling ill — don’t go to work — go to your Doctor and take their advice.
Realistically, this is advice that is common to all genus of diseases and viruses — not categorically ‘just’ for Swine Flu. Most importantly, stay informed about the relevant outbreaks of the virus — but don’t start necessarily digging your outside nuclear bunker or moving to the country just yet. While the age old axiom — ‘better to be safe, than sorry’ — does ring true — I think that keeping healthy, fit and taking the proper precautions should ensure that the world contains and eradicates Swine Flu.
Stay Safe & Healthy! :)